Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Trashman Stoppeth

The Ancient One, as many know, does much of his reading on his morning walks through the neighborhood. Only on rare occasions does it pose a physical threat, usually the result of walking into a parked car while engrossed in a compelling scene of a murder mystery. Now and then other walkers or neighbors wake him from his reverie with comments or questions about the reading material.

Having been noticed regularly by others as he passed along the way, he wasn't really prepared the other morning when the trash truck stopped to pick up the greenwaste as I was leaving for work. After emptying the barrels, the driver turned and came up the driveway. With a big smile and a heavy accent, he said that he often noticed my reading habit as I walked along the street. He asked what types of books I read and I gave him my standard answer about mystery novels and thrillers. Then he surprised me.

"Reading is good," he said. With a wonderful, wide smile on his face, he continued, "I always have a book with me on the truck and I always read during my lunch hour and breaks. I learn so much from reading." I must confess that he proved to me once again how much people in all walks of life want to learn and that books provide an excellent vehicle to do so. And I was delighted to know that it was the printed word on paper that helped enlighten his day.

Yes, The Ancient One agrees. Reading is good for everyone!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Enumerating. . .

It’s been a quiet writing month but The Ancient One has been busy. This week, for example, he began work for the U.S. Bureau of the Census as an “Enumerator” or should I say and “enumerator in training.” The 4 days of classroom work ended today and tomorrow is field training. If all goes well, the real enumerating begins on Monday.

At this point in the year before the decennial census, the enumerators count and confirm listings of housing units. To assist us in this process, we have been training on HHCs, which in English means Hand-Held Computers. They are marvelous little machines using cellular technology (I think) and they include GPS capabilities. We’ve been running exercises on them for 4 days and now we get to show that we know what we learned. Assignments for the blocks where I am responsible for “address canvassing” will be downloaded mysteriously to my HHC and off I will go. At least all enumerators are assigned to “crews” in the area where they live and don’t have to travel far and wide across the land.

The Ancient One has learned a lot this week. But he is very tired. It is the first time he has worked a full-time week since he retired in 2006. Yeah, there have been a couple of 12-14 hour days on TV shoots but they never add up to a week of full-time, detailed work. This may be the most tiring week because once the real job begins, it won’t be full-time and it will last only for about 12 weeks. By then, it is hoped that the nationwide army of enumerators will have every possible housing unit listed on computer-based maps to be used by the “people counters” during the actual census next year.

So, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to enumerating I go.” That’s just one reason there have been so few posts this month! The Ancient One will offer up additional comments on this new working experience in the weeks to come. Yawnnnnnnnn. . . And now to get some sleep.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Amazing Fiddler. . .on the Roof

The Ancient One has seen 2 performances of Fiddler on the Roof at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School this week and is scheduled to see 2 more before the production completes its run on Sunday, March 22. Why see it so many times? Well, son Seth is the Director and it is his 1st musical direction effort and. . .

But I am a biased observer so I won't talk about the quality of the direction here. I won't mention the outstanding casting, selection of musical and vocal directors, choreographer, technical director and costumers. You see, my son the Director gives them all the credit, ignoring the fact that he selected the production team and cast. But I know better, even if I am a proud father who is just a little bit biased.

Instead, I will talk about the quality of the performances I witnessed although I am not sure where to begin. I guess, when you are talking about Fiddler you have to begin with Tevye. I have seen Jake Tieman perform before and I was a fan of his before this production. But I was still totally excited watching him perform. He was Tevye! He became the character and took charge of the stage. He is both an outstanding singer and actor and showed us both his skills and Tevye's soul. I particularly liked the twinkle is his eye when he had his conversations with God.

The rest of the cast was also outstanding. Golde (Kate Graham) looked like Tevye's wife and her singing voice complemented his very well. The singing and characterizations presented by the 3 older daughters Tzeitel (Mackenzie Gomez), Hodel (Samantha Hill) and Chava (Katie Segal) were outstanding and you just knew that they were sisters. Zach Barryte (Motel the Tailor) is a wonderful comic actor and provided a delightfully nuanced characterization of the bumbling young tailor. (I talked about Zach's comedy last December in my post on The Face on the Barroom Floor.) And then there was Koray Tarhan (Fyedka), the young Russian displaying both wonderful singing and dancing in the tavern. Finally, the choreography inThe Dream was brilliant, the best I have seen in any production of Fiddler, and the entire scene was made even better by Grandma Tzeitel (Dorothy Hayden) and Fruma Sarah (Christina Leslie).

I don't think I have ever singled out for plaudits so many actors in a single production. And then The Ancient One reminds himself that this was a cast of high school students. And while I have mentioned 8 performers by name, I personally want to congratulate the entire cast/ensemble for providing us with a wonderful performance. (If you click on the list below, you will get a more readable view.)

This production of Fiddler has 4 more performances, Thursday, March 19 through Sunday, March 22. There may be a few tickets left. If you are in the area, check at www.penhighdrama.com to select seats and buy tickets.

L'Chaim!!!!! And, again, CONGRATULATIONS to the cast, crew, director and entire production team!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2 Years and 400 posts

I just realized that I flew past 2 milestones over the past 2 weeks. February 26 was the 2nd blogiversary for The Ancient One and the 400 post mark has been achieved. In a way it is all very surprising. While my writing pace has slowed down, the cantankerous old curmudgeon is still here although not quite as curmudgeonly as he expected to be.

Thank you to all who have passed this way, especially those who return on a regular basis.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Brenda Arrieta Killian (1977-2009)

I was scanning my home page on Facebook Friday night when a message popped up on the screen. It was from a young woman who had been stage manager for a play I did several years ago at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). She asked, "Have you heard about Brenda." When I answered "No," she told me, as gently as possible, that Brenda had died of cancer that morning.

I first met Brenda at CSUDH when we were both cast in the play Boy by Diana Son. I was Papa Uber Alles and she was one of my daughters. Brenda was a wonderful actress and a better person. It seemed she always had a big unforgettable smile on her face. After she graduated in 2001, she went off to England where she obtained a Master's degree. When she returned, I first saw her when she walked into the lobby at Palos Verdes Players one night when I was working the box office. She was there to review the play for a local newspaper. We talked for a while, reminiscing about her trip to England, our time on stage together and a friend of mine at PV Players who had been her high school drama teacher.

The next time I saw Brenda was the fall of 2007 when I was cast at CSUDH in a new play, The Little College on a Hill which she had co-written for the Dominguez Bridge Theatre Company (DBTC). There was that huge smile and a warm hug for Papa from one of his many stage daughters. After the play closed, I saw Brenda one last time the late winter (or early spring) of 2008 when she told us at a DBTC meeting that her family was moving to Oregon. After that my only contact with her was when we became "friends" on Facebook and exchanged a note or two.

Brenda was too young and too bright to be taken from our midst. Her 2 young children lost their wonderful mother much too soon. There are a lot of us who have been struggling through this weekend trying to cope with this tragic, enormous loss. A full obituary written by Don Colburn of The Oregonian can be found here. It included this picture taken by Stephanie Yao Long of The Oregonian.

Look at that smile!! I'll never forget it or the young woman behind it! RIP Brenda. . . .